ONE of the largest employers in Whitchurch is in new hands again after being purchased with its parent company by an American firm for £1.3 billion

Agro Merchants, the Dutch refrigerated warehouse company which owns Grocontinental, has been purchased by Americold for around 1.74 billion US dollars – which equates to about £1.3 billion.

It is the second time the Whitchurch business has changed hands, with Grocontinental itself having only become part of Agro Merchants in 2017.

The purchase will see Agro Merchants’ 26 facilities – including its Whitchurch warehouse and fleet of vehicles – join Americold’s existing183 warehouses around the world.

Carlos Rodriguez, chief executive officer of Agro Merchants, said the deal represented a “big step forward” for the company but promised it would be business as usual for local centres such as in Whitchurch.

“The Agro-Americold combination represents a big step forward for us that will present many new and interesting opportunities in the years to come,” said Mr Rodriguez.

“Both companies are very complementary in terms of geographical footprint, customer base, capabilities, service offerings, commodity expertise and the immediate and longer-term potential that we will realise as a combined business.

“Agro will also be in a better position moving forward to raise capital for systems enhancements, new solutions, network integration, and growth projects.

“If this transaction closes and we begin the process of integrating our companies, it will still remain business as usual for us.

“The entire team is committed to delivering the same consistency, attention to detail and reliability that people have come to expect from Agro Merchants.

“In fact, the teams that manage the business, care for the products, and provide services in support of supply chains are not changing.”

Fred Boehler, president and chief executive officer of owner organisation Americold Realty Trust, added: “We are very excited to welcome the AGRO team to the Americold family as we expand the scale and enhance the geographic reach of the Americold network.

“The acquisition of Agro represents a unique opportunity to acquire an institutional-quality global portfolio that facilitates our strategic entry into Europe and adds complementary locations in the US, South America and Australia, where Americold is already established.”

“This strategic transaction provides exciting long-term growth opportunities through our ability to implement the Americold Operating System and commercial business rules across the AGRO platform.”